Lights Camera Currys: Food Photography with Nikon

As the daughter of a professional photographer, I wish I could say I was a little better with the visual side of blogging. Sadly, I’m not; I snap a quick photo on my phone or on a basic point-and-shoot camera, and move on. But I do want to be better, so when I was invited along to the Nikon School of Photography for a class on food photography, I was thrilled. Even my dad says how difficult food photography can be to get right, and he’s been wielding a camera for over forty years.

I have featured food on Is That You Darling before, but always with the caveat that the photography isn’t great. Getting the chance to learn from some experts (and to play with a nice expensive camera) wasn’t one I was going to let pass, and so I headed to Margaret Street for the evening a couple of weeks ago.

Now, I learnt some great stuff, and I had a lot of fun, but the first thing of note that I simply have to share is this fact: I ate my first ever macaron at this event. I know you’re wondering how I’ve been masquerading as a blogger for all this time without getting one of the most fundamental blogger basics under my belt, but it’s true. And I wasn’t disappointed. I now understand why everyone raves about them. Thanks to Nikon, Currys and Joe Blogs for helping me pop my macaron cherry!

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As you may be able to tell; this photo was snapped before we started to learn anything, with my phone, in the low light. Hopefully you’ll be able to notice a difference with the later photos!

We were taken through the basics by a fabulous member of the Nikon team, who thankfully didn’t assume that any of us were experts. I was given the loan of a Nikon D750 to use for the evening, as I don’t have a DLSR to call my own. It’s a very nice camera that felt fabulous in my hands; it’s easy to feel like you know what you’re doing when you’re holding expensive equipment!

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Some tips I learnt from the class:

  • Cameras basically just want to let as much light in as possible, so if you are using your camera in automatic mode, that’s what it’s going to do, at the expense of some of the other settings that will actually allow you some control over the way your photos look.
  • Your shutter speed is the amount of time that the shutter is open for; when it comes to food, if not using a tripod, it needs to be at a minimum of 1/60 to avoid that shaky, unwanted blur.
  • Changing your aperture setting will allow you to play with your depth of field. This basically means that you can choose to focus on one specific part of the frame, and leave the rest of the image blurred – this is a shallow depth of field, achieved with a low aperture. This is good for food photography, because you can focus on the one thing you want to show off, and leave the rest blurred.
  • When working with artificial lighting, adjusting your white balance is really important, and will make all the difference with your photography. Our teacher was explaining this to various members of the group, and I eavesdropped enough to just about work out how to do it, but I think if I’d had the nerve to actually ask for advice, I could have taken some much better pictures. My inherent shyness got in the way yet again!

Having been given all of the information, it was time to get down to business, and we were encouraged to wander around the room and take photos of various fruit vegetables set up under some lights.

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These two photos are a good example of changing the white balance. While I don’t think the second photo is a great one, by any stretch, changing the white balance really shows, making the white surface actually appear white.

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These peppers became an obsession for me; I really wanted to try and get some good photos of them! I think I managed a couple, as shown here. They are definitely better than anything I could have achieved before I went to the class.

There is still much to learn, and until I have saved enough to buy myself a nice DSLR, it will have to be on borrowed cameras. But it’s nice to have a basic knowledge of how these settings work, so at least when I’m changing them, I know why!

Thanks again to Joe Blogs for inviting me along (they really do put on some amazing events), and to Currys and Nikon for arranging such an enlightening lesson (and for providing me with the chance to eat my first macaron). You can read some more about the evening on the Currys blog, and check out #lightscameracurrys on Instagram for more photos from the other bloggers I was too shy to chat to!

The Amba, Audrey and Afternoon Tea

Last month I was lucky enough to be invited along by Joe Blogs to an afternoon event in London. If you’re a blogger, and you’re not already signed up to Joe Blogs, I’d get on that right now; they are a fab bunch, with a very entertaining newsletter, and they put on really fun events!

This one took place at the Amba Hotel Charing Cross. Tucked in right next to Charing Cross Railway Station, it’s a beautiful hotel; fairly unassuming from the outside, but very grand and opulent inside. It’s located in the ideal place for taking in a bit of London culture, and that was the order of the day, as after a quick champagne reception, we had a wander down to the National Portrait Gallery to take in the Audrey Hepburn exhibition that was running from July until this past weekend.

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The National Portrait Gallery is somewhere I always head if I’m trying to kill some time in London. That sounds like damning it with faint praise, but it’s such a big gallery, with so much to see, that I like to do it in chunks! The Audrey exhibition didn’t disappoint, it was filled with more than seventy images that chronicled her life as a child and young woman, through her career as a movie star, always capturing that unique star quality that shines out through the lens. Also on display were a pair of her ballet shoes, which were of course tiny, and fun to see.

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Back to the hotel, after being encouraged to have a look around and see some of the beautiful rooms and views, we were treated to Afternoon Tea! I thought that I hadn’t ever actually had Afternoon Tea before, but then I remembered that I have (and I’ve blogged about it); though I can’t call myself a connoisseur. Considering how much I enjoy tea, and eating, I can’t believe that it’s something I don’t do more of, and I’m resolving to remedy that. Maybe it can go on my 34 Before 34 list?

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Talking of that list, getting into a conversation with some of the other lovely bloggers that were there, I shamefacedly admitted that I’ve never been to IKEA! They were all shocked that I had denied myself this pleasure, so I promised to put it on the list and make sure I do it in the next twelve months!

The food and drink at the Amba Charing Cross was all delightful; I managed to stop myself at two cups of tea, but I could have gone on all afternoon!

Thanks very much to Joe Blogs for the invitation, and for Amba Charing Cross for having us all. It was a lovely afternoon!